Silent ‘funeral cortege’ in central Dublin honours Tuam babies
Dozens of coffins laid outside GPO to remember mothers and babies from Tuam home
A temporary silence fell on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on Saturday afternoon as dozens of people marched slowly down the city’s main thoroughfare carrying small white boxes with names printed in clear black letters.
Weekend shoppers and curious tourists stopped to take photos and observe as a lone uilleann piper led the silent procession from the Garden of Remembrance to the General Post Office (GPO) in memory of the 796 Tuam babies whose remains lie buried in a septic tank in the Galway town.
Mary Warde; Geraldine O’Malley; Patrick Shiels; John Joseph Kelly; Patrick Costello; Christopher Williams; Austin O’Toole; Rose O’Dowd; Angela Doland and Catherine Howley were just some of the babies and mothers remembered on the boxes laid on the ground outside the GPO under Oliver Sheppard’s Death of Cú Chulainn sculpture which sits behind the central window.
Peter Mulryan carried a boxing bearing the name of his sister Marian Brigid who was among the babies who died in the Galway mother and baby home. With no record of how she died, he still hopes she may have actually been sent to America for adoption.
Mr Mulryan, who also spent time in the Tuam Mother and Baby home as a child, said the “funeral cortege” aimed to create wider recognition of the babies whose remains were buried in Tuam. “The cruelty of it is unreal. We have huge support but not from the State or the Church. They won’t accept what we want; basic rights for these children.
“This is a clam, peaceful walk just to respect those babies who didn’t get a dignified funeral when they passed away from this earth.”
Una McEntagart, whose family come from Tuam, held a white box printed with the name Maureen Kenny and containing a small pair of knitted boots. “The box symbolises that these children never had a resting place of their own and they also need to have their name and their space in the world recognised,” said Ms McEntagart.
“Everybody who is born in the world deserves to hold their place no matter what size they are or how old they are. These children were neglected their place in the world and in time. It’s a terrible indictment on the role of women in Ireland when women kept things going for so long all through the war years. But they were never acknowledged, in fact they were shamed.”
“How much money was spent to bring the Pope to Ireland?” asked Noreen Lanigan, who carried a box printed with the name Maud McTigue. “Would it not have been better spent looking after the Tuam babies and taking them out of the sceptic tank, giving them their identity and burying them in a Christian burial?”
Asked to explain the story behind the woman whose name was printed on her box, Marian Fitzpatrick said she did not know what had happened to her. “Isn’t that the point,” she asked. “We don’t know anything about them. They had nobody to speak for them then so we just feel it’s the very least we can do. We’re here to give some dignity to those 796 babies that were just discarded for decades. It’s something that needs to stay on the public agenda.”